A/N: This chapter is unbetaed. Also, SKOM celebrated its two-year anniversary four days ago! Thanks to everyone who has stuck around for that long!
Let this moment unravel
And we'll be alright
The world might be gone tomorrow
But we're here tonight
Oh, it's not too late
Just to feel that way
Taylor Hicks, "Just to Feel That Way"
Chapter 22: A Confession
"Harry, behind you!"
Harry whipped around in time to see the Golden Snitch flit away. Gritting his teeth, he tore after it, hand outstretched, but it was hopeless; the sun's glare was in his eyes and he couldn't see the glint of gold anywhere.
"Fuck!" He slowed down and sat back on his broom. Ginny pulled up next to him.
"What were you thinking?" she asked, placing a gloved hand on his thigh. "That was an easy catch."
"I was thinking about you."
Ginny raised her eyebrows. "If Angelina were here, she'd kill you. Never think about the enemy while you're playing."
"Even if the enemy's your girlfriend?"
Though Harry had meant the words to be teasing, they came out sounding flat. Ginny's hand slid off his leg.
"I mean it," she said. "What's going through your mind? You seem more distracted than usual. I thought you'd been dying for a good game for months."
Guilt gnawed at Harry's insides. He couldn't tell Ginny the truth. No matter how often he told himself the kiss he'd shared with Draco was a one-time thing, that didn't change the fact that he wanted to do it again. And again. And again.
He'd thought that one kiss would satiate his burning curiosity, but instead it had opened doors to stronger, more dangerous urges. He iwanted/i Draco. He wanted to see Draco, to talk to him, to be with him. It didn't matter why; all Harry knew was that he had never felt anything close to this for Ginny.
Still, they hadn't seen each other for over a week now. Though Draco had not seemed angry when they parted after the Thestral ride, he had made no attempt to contact Harry afterwards. Harry didn't mind waiting, but at the same time, he was also keenly aware that time was running out for Draco. Magic-induced or not, if this ithing/i between them meant anything at all, Harry would leave Ginny in a heartbeat – rash, yes, and undoubtedly stupid, but he could no longer bear the heavy weight of denial on his shoulders. He would take the chance, and if it didn't pay off, then so be it. At the very least, he could ride out the high of three more months with Draco, and deal with the consequences later.
Before Harry could answer Ginny's question, someone called his name. He and Ginny both glanced towards the ground. Ron and Hermione were standing at the foot of the bleachers, waving up at them.
"Guess what Lupin just told us?" Ron yelled.
"What?" Ginny called back.
Ron frantically motioned them down. Harry and Ginny complied, turning their brooms and diving towards the ground together. They pulled up next to Ron and Hermione and dismounted with ease.
"What?" Ginny repeated, releasing her long, red hair from the messy bun in which she'd trapped it.
"Greyback," Ron crowed, while Hermione beamed. "They caught Greyback!"
"He was on the brink of death when they found him, so they decided not to administer the Kiss and let him live out his last few days," Hermione added. "I think Kingsley's anti-Dementor policies are finally starting to take effect."
"That's great!" Harry said, grinning. He couldn't be happier for Remus. Finally, his lifelong nightmare was on its way to closure.
"Yeah!" Ron said enthusiastically. "Just think of all the people he attacked. It's about time those families got what they've been wanting for years. Can't really fault him for finishing off Malfoy's dad, though – it's probably the only good thing he did his entire life."
20. Avenge Father's death.
Harry's grin slid off his face, and he sucked in a sharp breath. He had to tell Draco.
"I'm going to head up to the castle right now. I'll catch up with you lot later."
"Wait, we're going –"
But Harry was already tearing across the Quidditch Pitch towards the castle, gulping in lungfuls of the warm, evening air, methods of breaking the news to Draco racing through his head. He felt a rush of irrational anger as he sprinted through the main doors and down the stairs to the dungeons. It wasn't fair. Revenge was one of the last things Draco had, and yet the Ministry had gone and taken it away from him too. Of course, locked up in the castle, Draco couldn't have got the revenge he wanted anyway, but it was the thought from which he drew strength. Harry knew that because he'd felt the same way about Bellatrix after Sirius's death.
"The Aurors got Greyback," Harry gasped before the door to the unused Potions classroom had even swung shut behind him. Draco hovered over the cauldron, stirring its contents with his wand. When he glanced up at Harry, there was no question about how he'd been discovered in his eyes.
"Back so soon from your date?"
Harry ground his teeth together. Now was not the time to discuss the situation with Ginny. "Did you hear me, Malfoy? Greyback's only got a few more days before he's dead and gone."
"What does that have to –" Draco's eyes widened as realisation struck. He withdrew his wand, shook it off. "If this is your idea of an April Fool's joke, Potter, you're a day late."
"You think I'd joke about this?"
There was a moment of tense, uncomfortable silence, and then the inevitable explosion came.
"Fuck!" Draco yelled, slamming his fist onto the table of ingredients next to him. It wobbled precariously, and a few dried leaves fluttered to the stone floor. Draco's expression deepened into a murderous scowl. He aimed a kick at the table leg, causing a vial to tumble off and shatter.
Harry was at his side in a heartbeat. "Hey, relax," he said, grabbing Draco's arms and pinning them to his sides. He felt the muscles tremble in his grip. "You wouldn't have been able to find him anyway."
"But the Ministry, of all fucking people!" Draco turned seething eyes on Harry. "You! You're their little poster boy. You knew about this, didn't you, Potter? You iknew/i they were after him, and you still let me believe –"
"I've got nothing to do with the Ministry," Harry snarled, his temper rising. "What's it matter who found Greyback? He'll get the punishment he deserves, won't he? It's about bloody time, too. He'd been out there for too long – it wasn't like he was going to sit around doing nothing, waiting for you to come find him. Besides, he's half-dead already!"
Draco's lower lip trembled just the slightest. "Father will hate me," he said, his voice breaking. "He'll never forgive me for failing to do this. Mother... she wanted me to, it was her last wish before they took her to Azkaban... 'Let your father rest in peace,' she said, and she was crying – icrying/i! My mother never cries, Potter." Draco gave a low moan of despair and slumped against the table he'd tried to destroy moments ago. "I've been sitting here stirring cauldrons and reading history books instead of doing what was important."
"That's not true!" Harry said fiercely. "You did what you could."
Without thinking, he cupped the side of Draco's face. He thought he felt Draco lean into the touch before turning his head away.
"There's no use continuing with the list. What's the point if I'll never be able to finish it?"
Harry was taken aback. "The point? I thought the point was to do all the things you've always wanted to do."
"It is, but –"
"So what difference does this make? One less item doesn't make the rest of the list any less important to you. Things don't need to be perfect to work."
These words did not have the intended effect of calming Draco, but instead seemed to anger him further. He kicked away a few shards of glass and straightened up. "You don't understand, Potter, and I don't need to explain anything to you. Just... go back to your friends. I want to be alone."
Harry gritted his teeth. "How about we do one of the other things? The weather's nice; we could always –"
"Just go away, Potter!"
"Fine!" Harry ground out. He'd been wrong to feel sorry for Malfoy – he was the same selfish child he'd always been. "Let me know when you're done wallowing in self-pity."
Just before Harry shut the door, he thought he heard a familiar sob of frustration inside the classroom. It took all his self-control not to turn back.
The next day, Draco didn't show up to any of their classes. Harry smiled to himself when he walked into Defence of the Dark Arts, the last class of the day, to find Draco's regular seat empty.
So he hadn't given up after all.
Later, while taking a loop around the Quidditch Pitch with Ron, Harry spotted a flash of blond hair heading from the castle to the greenhouses. He convinced Ron to end there for the day, and hurried to the greenhouses once he'd managed to shake Ron off by telling him he had to head to the library to check out a book for his Transfiguration project.
It took a while to locate Draco. Harry finally found him sitting behind Greenhouse Four, his back against the dirt-smeared glass wall. Hogwarts: A History lay open on his lap.
"Too good for Herbology, are you?"
A slight twitch of the shoulders was the only indication of surprise Draco gave. "I never said I didn't like the greenhouses," he said, his eyes still glued to the book.
Harry lowered himself to the grass beside Draco, wincing when the dampness immediately began seeping through his robes. "So? How was your day off?"
Silence was Draco's response, but Harry didn't press him. He leaned back against the wall of the greenhouse and gazed up at the sky. It was late evening, and the sun had begun to set. It framed the silhouette of the castle in glowing red, reminding Harry briefly of the night Dumbledore had died, when the two of them had returned to find the grounds lit by the vivid green of the Dark Mark.
But the sky had been black that night. Right now, splashes of colour painted the backdrop behind the castle in warm hues. As the sunlight faded, tendrils of hazy orange-pink and pale gold unfurled and spread out across the sky, shifting, mingling, turning the sky into a rosy blur. Harry watched, enraptured by the simple beauty of the scene, until the sun had sunk below the horizon and its red tint had bled away, leaving the sky dusky lavender.
"There," he said then. He'd grown so accustomed to the comfortable silence that he didn't immediately recognise his voice. "There's your seventeen."
He glanced at Draco. The other boy had his face tilted upwards. The thin light that lingered made his skin look translucent, bringing every thin, spidery vein in his half-lowered eyelids into stark contrast and casting smudged, bruise-like shadows across his features. Without thinking, Harry leaned over and brushed a kiss over his lips.
Draco's eyes flew open. He glared at Harry. "That doesn't count."
"Why not?" Harry asked, sitting back. "You're giving up on your list?"
"Don't be an idiot. I didn't risk detention to read a history book for nothing."
A grin broke across Harry's face. He hadn't realised how much he'd wanted this excuse to keep seeing Draco until he'd nearly lost it. "Then why doesn't it count?"
"Because I've still got to watch the sunrise tomorrow morning."
"Let's do it," Harry said immediately. He stood and offered Draco a hand. "We can sleep out here tonight. Knock off eight while we're at it."
Harry could see Draco fighting the impulse to tell him to go away. "Don't you have...?"
"Forget Ginny," Harry said shortly. "Come on. Let's go to the pitch."
The colour drained out of the sky as they made their way across the silent, deserted grounds. The chilly night air was infused with a calming sense of peace and completeness, and Draco inhaled deeply, wanting to absorb that peace into his body, make it last forever.
They climbed up to the top of the benches. Draco sat down on the worn wood, shivering.
"This is brilliant," he muttered, looking out at the deserted Quidditch pitch, dark under the black sky. "Just fantastic. You really want to sleep up here, Potter? Sitting up? In the cold?"
Potter shrugged off his cloak. He murmured something, and it grew, the fabric gathering in a heap on the ground as it lengthened.
"Good thing about running around in the wilderness in the winter during a war is that you learn to make do with what you've got," Potter said with a grin. He tossed one end of the cloak-turned-blanket over Draco's lap. "Can you cast a Warming Charm?"
"Obviously," Draco said, casting said charm. He hesitated, then wrapped the blanket around him. Warmth enveloped him, and he melted into it with a small sigh. "I can't sleep upright."
Draco felt Potter shift closer. "Then lean on me," he said so quietly that Draco almost didn't hear him above the soft hiss of the wind. Potter's shoulder nudged against Draco's, and Draco turned to find Potter's face an inch away from his. He gave Draco a half-smile. "I don't mind. I won't tell anyone."
"Someone will see us in the morning..."
"We'll sleep under my Invisibility Cloak, then. Or," Potter said, colouring slightly, "I can stay awake and keep watch."
"Don't be a moron, Potter. Just because you saved the world doesn't mean you don't need sleep. Just... use your cloak. But not right now." Draco swayed a little, drawn to the solid warmth of Potter's body. His cheek brushed against the scratchy wool of Potter's scarf. "Idiot," he whispered. "I don't need you to do this with me."
"I know," Potter said with a smile.
"I'm sorry," Harry said later that night after the stars had come out. "About your father. I mean, I'm not sorry... for the rest of us. But for you, I am. It must've been awful... by Greyback, of all people."
"I always hated him," Draco muttered. "He'd say disgusting things to my mother when he visited the Manor, and then he... he'd threaten me. He'd do... things. I told Father I wanted him banned from the grounds, but Father refused, said we'd have to suffer his presence for the Dark Lord's sake." He laughed bitterly. "I suppose he suffered Greyback's presence more than both of us combined."
Harry was surprised to hear the usual reverence missing from Draco's tone. "Your dad wouldn't kick Greyback out, even to protect you and your mum?"
"It was the right thing to do," Draco said, his voice hollow. "Threats, bullying, harassment... they were inconsequential compared to what the Dark Lord could have done. But... sometimes I wish Father had stood up for us. For the principle of it. I mean, all three of us would have died eventually – Father's gone already, and Mother and I don't have long. At least we could have gone together at the hands of the Dark Lord."
Harry nearly jumped out of his skin when Draco's hand covered his on the bench. Their fingers locked in one smooth, synchronised movement. Harry's heart beat rapidly as he looked to his side, but Draco was gazing out across the field into the inky blackness on the other side, his cheeks flushed pink.
"I don't want to die alone," Draco whispered.
Just like that, Harry's heart broke.
Turning Draco's face towards him, Harry bowed his head and touched their foreheads together.
"You won't have to," he said. "You hear me? You're not going to die alone. You're not going to die at all."
Draco made a soft, exasperated sound. "How many times do I need to tell you that you can't control the world before the message finally gets through that thick skull of yours?"
"At least one more," Harry said. He stroked the nape of Draco's neck, a thousand tiny wings fluttering in his stomach. "Can I...?"
Draco gave the smallest of nods. Harry tilted his head, finding Draco's lips with his. They kissed with open mouths, sensation and emotion intermingling in excruciating intimacy. Harry wanted to cry when Draco's hand tightened around his, and even though he squeezed back, it didn't relieve any of the pressure in his chest.
When Draco broke the kiss, he rested his cheek on Harry's chest rather than drawing back. After a while, his breathing slowed down and deepened. Carefully, Harry eased his Invisibility Cloak out of his pocket and draped it over them, so that it covered all but their feet. Then he sighed and closed his eyes.
That night, Draco wasn't the only one who fell asleep half-hoping he wouldn't wake up.